A good “scary” movie should not be unrelentingly dark, but should vary in mood and tone. Hitchcock was great at this – laughs and screams and romance. But he didn’t get into the supernatural stuff. He knew there was no greater evil than that which resides in the human heart.
In Abel Ferrara’s 1995 black and white vampire-art film, The Addiction, evil is inherently human – we are constantly shown (in the form of historical documentaries) evidence of man’s inhumanity to man, and vampirism like sin is something with which we actively collaborate.
Of course as with any vamp-as-metaphor story it’s not perfect and gets a bit messy — and I don’t just mean all that thick syrupy blood. At first there’s a strong idea that by not sufficiently resisting, not firmly telling evil to get lost, the vamp-victims brought the carnage on themselves. But by the end of the film, resistance is futile and the vamps attack with no warning. It’s not clear that they actually kill people or if everyone attacked becomes a vamp. What is clear is that in addition to sin, blood-lust is an addiction — once you have a taste, you just want more and more. Vampires don’t consume blood. Blood consumes them.
A young Christopher Walken (before he played one too many ridiculous parts like this) shows up to offer us hope (maybe). He’s a vampire who’s fought “the addiction” and hasn’t fed for years. He even has a job and can pass for human, but it’s always there. He advices our heroine, a recently bitten philosophy student named Kathleen played by Lily Taylor, to read Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. This is another problem with vampire-as-metaphor – you don’t have to stake us through the heart, we already got the message.
Kathleen starts off mousy before being initiated by a fetching Annabella Sciiorra. But don’t get your hopes up. The Hunger, this is not. While there are sexual undertones and hints of rape or seduction, there’s no hot vampire sexy-time in this film. Glimpses of young Edie Falco, Kathyrn Erbe and even Michael Imperioli are also seen. It’s a good thing the actors are skilled because they have to philosophize an awful lot, but in the end there’s the traditional let’s go nuts and have a blood orgy sequence.
I can’t really recommend it. Why not? Mostly because it’s neither funny nor scary. The metaphorical stuff isn’t deep enough to make you think or feel. Humanity the great evil or the greatest evil? There’s no fun here. As with Only Lovers Left Alive, the viewer is left wondering, what exactly is the point of immortality if it’s all so dour? I don’t have a problem with vampires being damned, but just because you’re headed for hell that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the trip.
And if I may, the reason I’m looking at a twenty-year old movie and thinking so much about the subject of vamps, is because of my own (very) soon to be released vampy novel. But with Blood Diva, I’ve at least attempted to have a good time. Sure there’s some metaphor, which I hope doesn’t get clunky, but the main thing is being a vampire should be fun — to be young and beautiful forever, to own the night, to have it sing to you.That might be not be worth selling one’s immortal soul for, but it’s easy to see why it might seem to be.
(If you want to kill an hour and twenty minutes despite my warning, you can rent the disc from Netflix, but it doesn’t seem to be available there or in the usual places for streaming. Look around though you never know what you might find.)